Your Guide to Socially-Distant Getaways Near Wheeling Melissa Rebholz March 5, 2021 For many of us, the pandemic has put a pause on big vacation plans. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t satisfy your wanderlust with a little creativity and preparation. In fact, you don’t have to travel all that far from Wheeling to have a great vacation. Throughout the last year, I decided to spend some time exploring places that were close to home, safely and alone, and I’m here to share some of my favorite staycations that are just a short drive away. Some of my favorite moments from my mini getaways included roasting supper over an open fire, sipping morning coffee from a mountain overlook, fishing, kayaking and hiking on the water, and exploring local ghost towns. As warmer weather returns, consider checking out some of these local getaways. West Virginia Last summer I discovered through the West Virginia State Parks website and that they were offering a discount code for state residents. I decided it would be a great opportunity to check out a couple parks in the Eastern part of the state, to which I hadn’t yet been. I booked a few nights at Seneca State Forest and a few more at Cacapon State Resort. Seneca State Forest Seneca State Forest in Dunmore, WV was my first stop – the drive through the Monongahela National Forest was breathtaking. I opted for a two-night stay at one of their tent camping sites, but they also offer cabin rentals at this park. Each campsite has a picnic table and a charcoal grill which is clean and ready to use. It’s important to note that the campsites are primitive, with clean water and compost toilets just a short distance away from each site. The park itself is beautifully maintained. You can choose from many different trails to hike, spots to picnic, and even launch a kayak into the river. You also have the option to rent kayaks and rowboats if you don’t have your own. There is no wifi or cell service in this park so it’s truly a time to unwind in nature. To my delight (and at night, to my fright) I was the only person camping in a tent in the park at the time of my stay. The scenic drive from Dunmore, WV to Berkeley Springs, WV is one of the most gorgeous I’ve ever taken in my life. Winding up and down mountains, switchbacks, driving along little creeks and the big river it left me awestruck. I’ll never forget coming down the mountain and turning the corner to have the view open up to a man in fishing gear alongside a river. He was hunched over a little camp stove on the ground with a cast iron and his catch of the day on top. We exchanged a wave and it felt like the first real moment of 2020. Seneca State Forest Fire Tower Monongahela National Forest Monongahela National Forest Greenbriar River Cacapon State Resort I stopped in Capon Bridge, WV at The Farmer’s Daughter, which is an excellent butcher shop, restaurant and specialty foods shop. I purchased the best cold-smoked double thick pork chops I have ever cooked. I would probably drive four hours just to buy them again, and I may or may not have dreamed about them since as well. My economy cabin at Cacapon State Resort was equipped with all new kitchen appliances and a comfy bed. The cabins have a screened in porch, fire pit, grill and bathroom with shower inside.The cabins also have heat for cool nights and AC for hot days. The park itself has an endless amount of activities to enjoy – Paddle boats, a lake for swimming with a beach, a concession stand, hiking, horseback riding, large playgrounds, volleyball courts and a pond for fishing. Cabin at Cacapon State Resort Cacapon State Resort Pork Chops from The Farmer's Daughter New River Gorge In October, I set out again to catch the last of the fall colors in the mountains and to see the New River Gorge for the first time. I booked my stay at Babcock State Park in an economy cabin, just outside of the New River Gorge. The cabins have a full kitchen for cooking, a grill outside and a firepit. The park is gorgeous with a beautiful, old, and functional grain mill and many trails for hiking. Another perk is the proximity to the gorge and also to Hawk’s Nest State Park where you can ride an aerial trailway down into the gorge. It was pretty rainy when I was at Babcock so I took a drive to the ghost town of Thurmond, WV. New River Gorge New River Gorge Babcock State Park Babcock State Park Babcock State Park Hawk's Nest State Park Thurmond, WV Thurmond was a booming rail town around 1910 with some of the most prosperous banks and businesses for miles. However, the Great Depression and rise of the automobile (which led to the fall of the steam engine) left Thurmond in the past. One of the town’s two hotels caught fire in the 1930s and the town never recovered. Today, it’s like stepping back into the 1920s to walk the main road along the railroad tracks and see the shuttered businesses standing just as they were in their heyday. If you’re interested in railway history, beautiful drives, creepy old houses and stunning views of the mountains and New River, Thurmond is a must see! Thurmond, WV Thurmond, WV Thurmond, WV Thurmond, WV State parks aren’t the only place to stay in the wild and wonderful state. Airbnb is a great way to find a place close to home for a staycation. You can search their “nearby stays” for options. InnisFree Farms has listings on the site and are right in our own backyard in Triadelphia! Host, Hilary, says they have been booking guests for their Pond Cabin’ for the past two years and their two tiny houses have been listed on the site for one year. The pictures speak for themselves and Hilary says guests can always ask about extra amenities. In the past they have helped set up romantic surprises and even proposals! The cabin comes with good coffee, coffee maker, books and access to a fishing pond and kayaks. Pond Cabin Pond Cabin Tiny Cabin Pennsylvania In late November, I drove two-and-a-half hours Northeast to Clear Creek State Park in Sigel, PA. Their log cabins are equipped with two bedrooms, a kitchen, electric heat and a wood stove. The cabin area is situated along a scenic creek and there are plenty of long and short hikes to choose from with beautiful vistas of the park. Each cabin has well water outside and bathrooms and showers that are just a short walk down the park road. I especially loved the combo fire pit/grill at Clear Creek and a comfy bench was provided for bonfire stargazing. Supper at Clear Creek State Park Cabin at Clear Creek State Park Cabin at Clear Creek State Park Cabin at Clear Creek State Park Clear Creek State Park Ohio I turned to Airbnb for a short trip to Cleveland in January. There are many affordable places right on Lake Erie, especially during the off-season. I love being near water, even in the winter when it’s frozen. Cleveland boasts a ton of great take-out food and markets. My first stop was Westside Market, the oldest indoor/outdoor market in Cleveland with over 100 vendors. The market has certainly shrunk due to COVID, but there is no shortage of mouth watering pastries, speciality foods, butcher shops and bakers. I visited Edgewater Park to get some fresh air and take a sunset walk before picking up take-out at Crust Tremont, a popular local eatery that has tasty pizza and subs. Cleveland is also home to a burgeoning urban farm community and a thriving winter market. I stopped into the Coit Road Famer’s Market before heading home to Wheeling and stocked up on local storage and high tunnel vegetables. The abundance of fresh produce, even in January, was impressive! On the way back I stopped in to Compass Coffee in Akron, OH for an outstanding Americano and to peruse the shelves of Elizabeth’s of Akron, a local bookshop and writing center. Coit Road Market, Cleveland Crust Tremont Pizza in Cleveland Cannoli from Westside Market in Cleveland Edgewater Park Lake Erie sunset Lake side Airbnb Looking through Airbnb for close Ohio staycations, I came across a modern off-grid cabin that was once featured in Dwell Magazine. This booking is seasonal and boosts a pavilion on the gorgeous property which looks like an excellent place to host a small gathering. Modern, Off-grid Cabin on Airbnb This year reminded me that you don’t have to go far away to explore new places. Every place I visited provided contactless or very COVID-conscious check-in procedures. While I am looking forward to travelling with family and friends again to far away places I’m content for now to start booking my spring staycations. • Melissa Rebholz was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, to a Sicilian/German family. She grew up in a household revolving around food. In 2007, a summer of volunteering for GrowNYC (New York City’s Farmer’s Markets) led her down the path to culinary school at The Natural Gourmet Institute and 10 subsequent years of farming from Long Island to Sonoma to Tennessee. Working simultaneously in kitchens to support her farming habit, Melissa migrated back to the rustbelt in October of 2019 to help Grow Ohio Valley open the Public Market as the head chef. Her hobbies include foraging, baking, dinner parties and exploring her new home of Wheeling, West Virginia. 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